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Merlin Park Sheela-na-Gig
 

County

Galway

Coordinates

N 53° 16' 47.28"   W 008° 59' 52.98"

Nearest town

Galway

Grid Ref.

M 33441 25962

Map No.

46

Elevation a.s.l. (m)

29

Date of visit

Thursday 15 June 2017

GPS Accuracy (m)

3
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The castle is in the centre of a green area among a group of social houses.


The castle at Merlin Park was originally known with the name Doughiska. The site was the original place of an early fortification built for Turlough O'Connor, High King of Ireland, in the early 12th century.
Dermot O'Connor, the Abbot of Knockmoy, leased part of the lands of Doughiska to Henry Blake of Galway in 1383.
The current tower house might date to the 16th century when it went in possession of the Lynch family because Nicholas FitzJohn Blake gave his daughter Evelyn as bride to John Lynch FitzRichard FitzSanders.
The Cromwellian Commissioners dispossesed the Lynch family between 1653 and 1655. It is believed that the castle lost its roof in this period.
Francis Blake, the first member of the Blake family to live here, moved to the castle in 1731, and changed the name of the castle from Doughiska to Merlin Park.
It seems that the castle was inhabitated until 1850's when it was sold to Mr. Hodgson and later to the Waithman family until it was abandoned.
Charles Blake built a house against the south wall of the castle, but it has long disappeared leaving traces of the roof gables on the masonry of the tower house.

On the decoration of a small ogee window on the second floor in the south (170°) wall, at about 4.70 metres from the ground, there's a sheela-na-gig.
This is the smallest known sheela-na-gig in Ireland and it has been carved upside down in the act of sitting on something that looks like an upside down shield. The figure has a big round head with visible round eyes and mouth. She's sat with her legs spread apart, feet pointing outwards and her hands resting on her knees. The total height of the figure is only 4.5 centimetres! Her genitalia are clearly expressed with a hollow between her legs. On the same window a rosette has been carved.
The castle has several other ogee windows in all walls, and all of them have nice decorations, from triskells to rosettes, from knots to floreal motifs.
At the roof level there's a machicolation on every side.

Nearby the castle there's a strange block of stone with several hollows!

The castle is in a park at the centre of an amphitheatre-like social housing area. All streets look the same, a couple of them are cul-de-sac, and we felt a bit uncomfortable while there.


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